By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Cardinal Newman, behind Corey Hammell’s 25-point performance, knocked off previously unbeaten Mt. Eden, 59-44, Saturday night to advance to the finals of the 31st annual Sonoma County Classic.
The Cardinals will meet Acalances for the championship tonight at 7 p.m. The Dons advanced by defeating Santa Rosa, 58-45.
Hammell, who was four inches taller than any player on Mt. Eden’s roster, was at his dominating best in the second quarter when Newman took control of the game.
The 6-foot-6 senior scored 11 points in the quarter and his presence on defense continually forced the Monarchs to adjust their shots in the paint. He also owned the boards, pulling down 14 rebounds including eight in the first half.
While Hammell was outstanding, he wasn’t the only hero. Kenny Love knocked down 14, most of those jump shots in the key. Another pivotal player for Newman turned out to be Julian Torres. He came off the bench to score 10.
“Our guys played great,” coach Tom Bonfigli said. “On the defensive end, they were exceptional.”
At the start of the second quarter, Mt. Eden went nearly six minutes with just one field goal. While the defense was holding the Monarchs in check, the Cardinals reeled off nine straight points. Hammell had six of those, two from 14 feet and one on a putback.
That enabled Newman to open a 21-12 lead. Mt. Eden never got closer than six the rest of the way.
The Monarchs, the defending champs from the West Alameda County League, went to a full-court press to try and narrow the gap. However, with Love and Tim McCullough doing most of the ball handling, that didn’t work.
“We handled their pressure and did a great job possessing the ball,” Bonfigli said. “Mt. Eden is a very good, quick team.”
Hammell was happiest with his defense and rebounding.
“Coach always says if you go all out on defense and rebounding, the scoring will take care of itself and it did,” he said.
Mt. Eden, winners of nine straight to open the season, got 18 points from Noel Briones and 13 from Stevinaire Young.
Newman takes an 8-1 record into the championship game. The Cardinals have won the Classic twice in the past four years.
In consolation bracket games, Healdsburg defeated Rancho Cotate, 61-49, and Piner edged Eureka, 57-54.